Ed Yong Profile picture
20 Nov, 10 tweets, 5 min read
🚨I wrote about UNMC--the hospital that, perhaps more than any other in the US, had prepared for a pandemic. It has amazing facilities. Its staff anticipated, planned, drilled.

And now?

“I don’t see how we avoid becoming overwhelmed,” one doc said. 1/

Here’s what the current surge is doing to the best-prepared hospital:
➡️One building is now a COVID tower.
➡️10 COVID units; 1 solely for patients to die.
➡️Some days, they’re short 45-60 nurses.
➡️“We’re watching a system breaking in front of us." 2/

Hospital staff are *exhausted*. A nurse who normally works in oncology told me she can barely comprehend the amount of death she has seen in recent weeks.

Work "follows me everywhere I go. It’s all I see when I come home, when I look at my kids.” 3/

This is NOT because the virus is unstoppable. It’s because Trump, Nebraska's governor, and many of its people are not doing the simple things that could stop it.

Not even the best-prepared hospital can compensate for an unchecked pandemic. 4/

Ron Klain—Obama’s Ebola czar & Biden’s future chief of staff—once told me UNMC is “arguably the best in the country” at handling dangerous & unusual diseases.

If THEY are struggling, that’s a massive warning sign. And they aren't alone. 5/

As I wrote last week, hospitals around the country, and especially in the Midwest, are also struggling.

The entire country is on pandemic fire. Reinforcements aren’t coming. Health-care workers are teetering on the edge. It’s getting worse. 6/

Hospitalizations lag behind cases by ~12 days.

In the last 12 days, Nebraska’s cases have gone from 82,400 to 109,280.

Even if no one else is infected, that surge WILL slam into already stretched hospitals over Thanksgiving.

Then what? 7/

As my colleague @alexismadrigal reported, 22% of hospitals don’t have enough workers right now. theatlantic.com/science/archiv…

Daily death rates will soon be higher than they were in the spring, *even if hospitals hold the line*. 8/

The near-term future is set. But our choices now will determine how dark Christmas is.

As @zeynep writes, “it’s time to hunker down.” theatlantic.com/health/archive…

As @rachgutman writes: “Don’t spend time indoors with people outside your household.” 9/
As a UNMC doc said to me, people have “a mistaken belief that every curve that goes up must come down.

What they don’t realize is that if we don’t change anything about how we’re conducting ourselves, the curve can go up and up.” 10/


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More from @edyong209

22 Nov
It has been too long since I’ve done this, but here are some great pandemic-related pieces from the last month or so, from people whose work I respect.

If you’ve liked my work, perhaps you’ll also like the work that I like.
.@rkhamsi, who's consistently been one of the best pandemic reporters, wrote about the absurd policies that are doing the rounds: wired.com/story/a-lack-o…

and about whey we need to SEE what COVID-19 is doing to people. wired.com/story/this-pan…
.@CarolineYLChen wrote this searing piece about how frustrated health-care workers are. They "don’t need patronizing praise. They need resources, federal support, and for us to stay healthy and out of their hospitals."

Read 16 tweets
17 Nov
The coronavirus bursts into a bar at 10.01pm but it's empty. It sulks off, thwarted.

The coronavirus enters a room to find only 14 people. "Curses," it says, "foiled again."

The coronavirus finds *15* people but they leave after 14 minutes. "DAMMIT."

This is a good time to read the latest piece from stellar reporter @rkhamsi on absurd pandemic polices. wired.com/story/a-lack-o…
And then read @rachgutman on how to think about safety. theatlantic.com/health/archive…
Read 5 tweets
15 Nov
Here's a thing I want everyone to understand.

There is a roughly 12-day lag between rising cases rising hospitalizations.

So the 1.5 million (!!!) confirmed cases from the last 2 weeks have not yet factored into stories about packed emergency rooms.

In this story, I noted Iowa is already out of staffed beds. ICUs are at capacity. theatlantic.com/health/archive…

Here are Iowa's cases. The 12-day lag between cases & hospitalizations means people in the blue portion will be trying to enter those full ICUs over the next 2 weeks.

I say Iowa, but you could do this same analysis for any number of states, especially in the Midwest. The near-term future is already baked in, which is why you have to act *ahead* of the virus. (See Problem #8 in this story about 9 intuitive fallacies.)

Read 5 tweets
13 Nov
🚨I wrote about what health-care workers are going through, how exhausted & scared they are, and what this 3rd pandemic surge is doing to them.

It’s not like the first 2. It’s worse. How much slack is left in the system? Iowa nurse: “There is none” 1/

You’ve seen the huge numbers. Here’s what they can mean.

➡️36-hour shifts
➡️Docs on standby in case a colleague and their substitute AND their substitute’s substitute get sick
➡️“We’re all running on fear”
➡️“There’s only so many bags you can zip” 2/

The issue isn’t beds or ventilators. It’s people.

In many states, there already aren’t enough nurses/docs to care for the incoming COVID-19 patients.

Here’s what it takes to care for one in an ICU. (Non-COVID patients are coming in sicker too.) 3/

theatlantic.com/health/archive… Image
Read 12 tweets
11 Nov
🥳It's a weird time for good personal news, but I’m proud to have won a AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award, in the In-Depth Reporting category for 3 of my pandemic pieces. 1/

End: theatlantic.com/health/archive…

Confusion: theatlantic.com/health/archive…

Patchwork: theatlantic.com/health/archive…
To continue a trend, I’ll be donating the prize money from this one to the Capital Area Food Bank, the Native American Journalists Association, the South Asian Journalists Association, the Trans Lifeline, and the Trevor Project. 2/
Thanks as ever to my editors @andersen, @thebanderson @slaskow @PaulBisceglio for improving my work, and to the Atlantic for giving me the time, space, mandate, and support to go big. 3/
Read 8 tweets
28 Oct
🚨I wrote about the upcoming election, and what the stakes are in terms of the pandemic.

The piece is short, and its gist is simple: Next week, Americans will choose whether to try and bring COVID-19 under control.

Four true statements:

➡️Trump has epically mishandled the pandemic.

➡️He does not learn from his mistakes.

➡️COVID-19 will still be raging in 2021.

➡️Historical patterns suggest another major epidemic is likely in the next 4 years.

The third surge is upon us. Hospitals are once again filling up. Healthcare workers are exhausted. Vaccines are still
far away.

But COVID-19 is not uncontrollable.

The playbook is clear. The US just needs a leader willing to implement it.

Read 5 tweets

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